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China Trip - Beijing - Sights

Days 7 through 11 were spent in and around the capital city of Beijing (北京).

First Impressions:

1) Hawkers: Right when we got off the bus from the airport we were ambushed by hotel/taxi hawkers. Luckily, I had already booked a hotel within walking distance. Because Beijing is packed full of sights and tourists, hawkers are everywhere and you have to train yourself to a) look too busy to care, b) to say no a lot.

2) Security: There’s an abundance of police officers and soldiers especially as you get closer to the city center.

3) City Area: Not as many skyscrapers as Shanghai, feels more spread out.

Sights: Beijing has a bunch of spots, I’ve only listed a few that I checked out.

1)  Tiananmen Square (天安门广场): A huge public square located directly south of the Forbidden City. This is where the police and soldiers are in full force as well as plain clothes cops. I really like the space but I get the feeling I’m being watched.

2) Forbidden City (故宫): A great old school imperial architecture and gardens in this grand area.

3) Yuanmingyuan Gardens (圆明园):aka The Old Summer Palace. In 1860, this palace was burned and looted by French and British troops during the Second Opium War. This experience along with others in Chinese history can be an indicator of why China’s wary about other foreign powers and getting involved abroad.

4) The Great Wall (长城):Outside of the city with multiple sections to visit. The gf and I went on weekday and to a less visited section, so we were able to get a feel of the “greatness” of the wall without the masses of tourists and hawkers that flood the wall on the weekends.

Disconnected

It’s been over a week without facebook.

Facebook as well as some other notable sites (blogger, twitter, youtube) are blocked by the Great Firewall of China.

I feel disconnected, yet strangely free.

If it was for an indeterminate amount of time, I would hate it, but for now I’ll just chalk it up as part of the China experience.

China Trip - Suzhou & Hangzhou

On a canal in Suzhou

“That was hella expensive.”

Day 4 we had done a day trip to Suzhou (苏州)to check out the gardens and the canals. We checked out the Suzhou Museum (苏州博物馆,free) and the Humble Administrator’s Garden (拙政园, 70 RMB, high season price) which were both nice. We decided to end the night with a boat ride.

We took a boat ride from the Renmin Bridge (人民桥) around half the city for 120 RMB (that’s 18 USD). A tourist trap. For those who don’t know, 120 RMB is a lot of money (it cost only 82 RMB to take the high speed train from Shanghai to Suzhou round trip).

Why did we agree to the price? At first we didn’t, we stepped back and said, “Wow that’s expensive.” I saw the sign, it clearly had 120 Yuan written and I thought back about how Lonely Planet said you shouldn’t argue about prices that are clearly listed.

That’s bullshit. A ridiculous price is a ridiculous price, having it listed just makes it official. But we were already there and in a lapse of judgment we got tickets. The boat ride itself was pleasant, but gnawing in the back of my mind was the thought, “Did we just get ripped off?”

That feeling, knowing someone out there has one upped you and that person knows it too, sucks. I had a talk with the girlfriend and we vowed from that day forth, to not be taken in again. 

Days 5-6 were passed in Hangzhou where the famous West Lake (西湖)resides. The lake itself was very pleasant, I especially liked the willow trees and the Yue Fei Mausoleum (岳王庙, 25 RMB). After the Suzhou incident, I began to notice a certain roughness developing in my manner: blocking off people trying to cut in front of line, bumping into people and not saying sorry, saying thank you only in key situations.

I also realized a directness in they way I asked for things, almost borderlining rudeness. But the most surprising thing out of these interactions was that I felt closer to the Chinese people.

China Trip - Shanghai - You are (not) polite

Day 2, Wednesday

I spent all day with the missus taking the subway and walking to 

1) A Chinese hotpot restaurant off of Changshou Rd. station. We had half spicy and half regular flavor. Spicy in Shanghai is SPICY. It was good and they gave big portions of meat and vegetables.

2) Yuyuan Gardens: In old town, not really a garden in the horticultural sense, but a series of old buildings surrounding a man made pond with carp and turtles.

3) Taikang Art District: Small souvenir and art shops. Nice area.

Walking is tiring. It’s a slow burn that hits you in the evening with a wall of fatigue. Jet lag doesn’t help either, so between Wednesday and Thursday, I slept 12 hours.

During those hours I dreamt of a mexican housekeeping lady and excel sheets, probably because my girlfriend was watching “Maid In Manhattan” while I slept and residue from work, respectfully.

Day 3, Thursday

Another walking day through Pudong new area (the place with all those new buildings I took a picture of in a recent post), the Bund (old school European architecture), and did some clothes shopping in the Nanjing West Road area.

Had KFC for dinner to satisfy a fried chicken craving. We were standing in line trying to figure out what we wanted, and this guy cut in front of us pretty conspicuously. My girlfriend then pushed me in front of him and he just backed off.

Afterwards, she told me, “Here in China, unless you push forward, you’re going to be left behind.”

The past few days I’ve been mulling over some of the differences that I’ve experienced here vs Taiwan vs USA. The main difference I’ve felt is in the interactions between people.

At the hotel, I would say thank you for everything: after paying for the room, asking about internet, getting an outlet adapter. I would do these interactions in Mandarin. The staff, would be surprised, saying “No need to say thanks” (这不用谢)。

One time at a restaurant, I was doing the same thing and the waitress just smirked. Then there was this guy next to us, complaining about how his table was too small in a very confrontational manner. I thought a shouting match would ensue, but the staff were professional and moved him to another table without incident.

After lunch I discussed it with the girlfriend, if that guy talked that way to anyone in the states, a fight would probably break out. She’d been living in China for a while now and she said that that sort of directness was common in China. Also, she told me I didn’t need to say thank you for everything. She caught herself doing the same thing when she first got there and was told by a friend who was a local, “Saying thank you for everything is fake.”

In this light, I understood better the cultural differences. There’s a mentality here of getting shit done, without the need of “politeness” to facilitate the action. The politeness is already embedded in the action itself, i.e. if you ask for a larger table, I’ll get you a larger table. 

Anyways, just some thoughts I’ve been thinking about recently.

China Trip - Shanghai - First Impressions

So this will be the first post on my new tumblr blog. I’m writing on here because China’s blocked blogger. I will keep my posts and anecdotes fairly brief since I’ve found it hard to keep up with blogging and traveling when you’re trying to write an essay each day.

Day 0 - I landed in Shanghai Monday evening.

First Impressions:

1. Maglev is fast. 301 km/h

2. Coming into the city, the feel is a mix between Taipei and HK.

Day 1 - Tuesday

Went jogging this morning. Air is bad! After running around for about 20 min, I felt like the time I first tried cigarettes.  Also, aside from a 60 year old man I saw, Shanghai people don’t jog.

Did some bagua training this morning next to a group of old people practicing Tai-Chi. Again, I was the weirdo that stood out being the only 20-something year old hanging out with old folks.

Tuesday Night

Tired. Been walking all day. Saw:

1. Shanghai Museum: Real nice museum with old school Chinese art. I especially liked the ceramics exhibition.

2. The Bund: The famous Bund skyline. Once I figure out how to post pics, I’ll put one up.

Allright, till next time!